Post(s) tagged with "Learning at home"

Peanut butter and Chocolate Cupcakes 


In the last little update I wrote about the challenges of parenting a three-year old and newborn, and I guess in some ways, simply verbalising the fact that I was struggling has made it a little easier. I’m learning not to be so hard on myself—to try to “go with the flow”. And I’m working on creating a new weekly routine—a new rhythm. 

At the moment, I’m slowly introducing daily activities and projects—cooking, crafting, trips to the library and just this week Eva started ballet class again. Apart from ballet, none of these activities are set, so we can work around Owen’s nap times and breastfeeding sessions. 

Pinterest is constantly a source of inspiration and when I stumbled across this vegan recipe, I knew we had to try it. The peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes were a hit with both our sweet tooths and in addition to quality mummy-daughter time. 

Learning at Home {Vol.6}

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these posts and although I’ve been intending on writing one, I just haven’t had an opportunity. Now that Eva is getting older and the activities more complex, I don’t often get a chance to step back and take pictures — usually I’m focused on getting a bucket of water and a towel ready for the clean-up! Anyway, here is a little of what we have been up to:

  • Creating

Currently Eva is obsessed with colours. Labelling colours. Sorting colours. And generally, talking about colours. She loves to categorise them, so creating a collage of various art and craft objects allowed Eva to focus on something she is interested in. I started off with placing a different coloured object in each for boxes on the sheet of paper. And as Eva pulled out each new object, we talk about what colour it was and whether it matched any of the objects on the paper. 

I picked up the “My Curious Collection” A3 sheet of paper from the library and we used a variety of craft supplies we had around the house — stickers, goggly eyes, balloons, ice-cream sticks, pom-pom balls etc. 

  • Cooking

Since Eva has a toy mini-kitchen, she loves to pretend to cook. She will make “bing” sounds and pretend the cookies are ready from the oven and that she needs to quickly put the mitten on and pull the tray out. A natural progression from this was to bake real cookies. 

After measuring out all of the quantities and placing them into little bowls, Eva added each ingredient into the large mixing bowl to make dark chic-chip cookies. Everything was going well, until it came time to creating small balls and placing them onto the tray. Unsure about the sticky substance on her hands, Eva started flicking them around the room in a bid to “clean” them! There were bits of cookie dough over the floor and some on the sofa — I had to laugh at my naivety for believing I could cook with a two-year-old! But despite the mess, Eva had fun and the cookies turned out well. 

  • Experimenting 

I have to admit, I’m terrible at science, so when I saw this experiment on my Abby’s blog  Little Red Buttons, I immediately knew I had to try it — it seemed easy enough! Vinegar and food colouring in one container and baking soda in the other. Eva used an old medicine dropper to transfer the liquid. What resulted was a green, frothy and bubbling concoction. The amount of bubbles didn’t suffice Eva, so she took delight in added more baking soda to the mix. Although, I’m not sure of the science behind it (once again, I’m terrible at science), I think more vinegar was needed…

On a side note, I didn’t realise until I’d uploaded these pictures that Eva in her plastic apron and only wearing underpants reminded me of Breaking Bad! 

  • Reading

Eva loves to read! We take weekly trips to the library and bookshop where Eva loves to browse their collections, often pulling out books that are the same as the ones she has at home. And just the other night Eva “read” her first book to me — turning each page and having memorised key words and phrases of the story! And since I’m always on the look out for new and interesting books, I thought I’d share a few of Eva’s current favourites: Charlie and Lola: I’m Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go To Bed, My First Brain Quest, Clip-Clop, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, The Three Little Pigs and The Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Learning at Home {Elements of a Playroom}

With so many amazing playrooms and design for little ones floating around on Pinterest, it’s hard not to feel inspired. Take these rooms for example: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (as you can see, I have a slight obsession with Teepees!). However, as much as I would love to create a little playroom for Eva, it’s just not viable in our three bedroom townhouse. So instead, I’ve taken elements of various playrooms and created “spaces” within our living room as well as being “creative” about storage. 

1. A Reading Teepee/Corner

Eva loves her teepee — she not only reads in it, but loves to play hide-and-go-seek as she closes each of the velcro straps before ripping it open again! I try to rotate her books often — keeping some of her favourites and adding new ones to explore. This has been was one of the best purchases we have made, in fact, since we’re in the process of changing Eva’s room we’ve decided to move it there. 

2.  Toy Kitchen

Eva’s little Ikea mini-kitchen has been the perfect toy to promote imaginative play and practical life skills. Not only does she love to pretend to cook, eat food or sip tea, she loves to pretend wash her toy puppy dog in the sink too.  

3. Puzzels

Taking advantage of the space under the television, is a collection of puzzles and small toys. These puzzles are fantastic for promoting critical thinking, patience and problem solving skills. Eva has complete access to these items and will often actively seek them out. 

4. Music Box

I’m the first to admit that most of the time I keep this box hidden in the cupboard, but every time I bring it out, Eva loves to sit and explore every musical toy — shaking, banging, ringing. Whenever this occurs I have to remind myself of the benefits of playing music. 

5. Art and crafts

Eva has a table and chair set, easel and craft cupboard in the kitchen. This cupboard it filled with various activities — play-doh, stamps, paints, stickers, various types of paper, puzzles, craft supplies, busy bags (boxes) and a number of early learning reference books. 

6. Blocks and Toys

Blocks are excellent for promoting fine motor skills as well as spatial awareness, although I have to admit Eva doesn’t use them very often and only when Johnny or I introduce them. On the other hand, Eva absolutely loves these plastic toys. They would have to be some of her most played with toys. She loves lining them up, laying them down to sleep and matching them with pictures in books. 

7. Dress-ups

At the moment, Eva loves to pretend play — dressing up like a dinosaur or bunny rabbit. She will also make us dress up too and chase her around the house. Although we don’t have the space for much more, I would love to expand our collection as she gets older and begins to enjoy imaginative play more. 

Both of these last two boxes are kept in Eva’s cupboard; however, like most toys, I try to rotate them as often as possible to keep Eva interested and engaged.

I hope this post goes to show that you don’t have to have a designated room for play, but rather prove that you can integrate play within your home without it looking too much like a childcare centre! 

Learning at Home {Vol.4}

I have to admit that since returning to work I haven’t had the time to create many new learning activities for Eva, despite the fact that I’ve been madly pinning away new ideas. Instead I thought I would share a example of an afternoon spent at home.

Eva might only complete each activity once or twice before she is ready to move on. I try to let her explore as much as possible and encourage her to complete each activity independently with, of course, some guidance and cueing.

Letter Recognition: Using wooden magnetic letters and an old metal platter, we focus on basic letter recognition and a couple of sight words. At the moment, Eva is able to recognise and differentiate the words: “Eva”, “Mum”, “Dad” and can say some of the letters, but she mainly enjoys pulling each letter out of the box and rearranging them. 

Fine Motor Skills: Using a colander and pipe cleaners, Eva is mesmerised by this lacing activity. This focuses on developing her fine motor skills as she concentrates to put each end of the pipe cleaner in a small hole. 

Shape Recognition: This activity is a little beyond Eva’s ability, but she enjoys matching each shape to the corresponding Flashcards (Mr. Printables) and claps as she gets each one right. She is able to recognise most basic shapes — circle, square, triangle, star, heart. 

Fine Motor Skills: The idea is for Eva to fill the measuring cup with her hands and then pour dry pasta into each of the containers, further developing her fine motor skills. She does do this once or twice, but it’s much more fun to dump all the pasta out all over the place.

Imaginary Play:  Both Johnny and I often play with Eva in her kitchen to “make” stews, “serve” tea, “eat” sushi, and “wash up” the dishes. Sometimes you get tea whether you like it or not as Eva forcibly shoves the tea cup into your mouth and makes sipping noises for you.

Reading: We read to Eva every night before bed, but we’re also trying to get into the habit of reading 5 Books A Day. I came across this idea of The Imagination Tree, which explains it best here:

The idea is that you choose 5 titles from among your usual books (or from the library) and read them every single day for at least a week. They suggest choosing short picture books which feature strong rhythm and/ or repeated refrain so that the children can quickly memorise the words and join in with the story-telling. This empowers them to be able to “read” and re-tell stories from a young age, and also makes them very fluent in a range of text types and literature styles.

Eva’s current 5 books are: Clip ClopDinosaurs Love UnderpantsPearl Barley and Charlie ParsleyHow to Catch a StarEach Peach Pear Plum and already we have noticed Eva starting to predict and remember certain words and parts of these books, particularly those that have a repetitive element.

I’d love to know, what learning activities does your toddler enjoy? 

Learning at Home {Vol.3: Toy Guide}

My previous “Learning at Home” posts have centred around creating your own resources and activities, but since not everyone has the time to make there own, I also wanted to recommend some of Eva’s favourite toys. 

Yes, I’m one of “those mums” — the kind that see toys as needing to have an educational value, the kind that prefers wood over plastic, but I am going to slightly contradict myself with my first “toy” recommendation:

1. iPad

This might be completely against any kind of Montessori or Steiner philosophy, but to be fair, when those methods were originally founded this kind of technology didn’t exist. I truly believe that in today’s society it is just as important to be computer- and technologically-literate as it is to have numeracy and literacy skills.

And yes, I’m aware that like television, numerous organisation do not recommend children under 2 years old use computer games and apps and go as far as saying that there is no education value in them. However, I would have to disagree. 

Through using interactive (key word) apps Eva has learnt and developed hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills (Elmo Loves ABCs: tracing letters), problem-solving skills (Play School Art Maker: puzzles) and extended concentration. We also love reading books (The Monster at the End of this Book, The Heart and the Bottle, Blue Hat Green Hat, A Charlie Brown ChristmasThe Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore) on the iPad.

2. Janod Wooden House Shape Sorter

Includes 8 shapes, a drawer for storage and a clock on the side. This toy focuses on learning shapes and colours as well as developing hand-eye coordination and problem-solving. 

3. Wonderland Rolling Rainbow Wooden

Engaging and mesmerising, each wheel makes a different sound and pattern as it rolls. Again this toy focuses on hand-eye coordination and is purely entertaining —Johnny and I especially love it.

4. Plan Toys Geometric Sorting Board

This toy is fantastic for learning shapes, for colour recognition, sorting skills and hand-eye coordination. Although the recommended age for this product is 3-years old, Eva has been able to complete this independently for the past couple of months. 

5. Wonderland Rainbow Sound Blocks

Stacking, sorting, simulate motor skills and colour differentiation. This tool is a more versatile shape stacker, allowing for multiple ‘solutions’. Eva also loves to the turn the blocks into kaleidoscopes and giggles at her rose-coloured world.

6. Plan Toys Cone Sorting

Learning sequencing and sorting skills. This is a slightly more complicated ring-stacking toy for when the stand-by, plastic Fisher Price on gets too easy for your little one. Eva is now at the stage where it has to be stacked “correctly” and gets annoyed when Johnny stacks it upside down.

7. Infantino Colours and Textures Puzzle

A great set of flashcards for learning colours, shapes, animals and textures. The pictures are not too cutsey, and the puzzle is not so difficult as to be overwhelming. There are enough pieces to keep in toddler busy. Eva is always very proud of herself when she finds a match —even if it’s 10 times in a row.

8. Ikea Easel and Twig Crayon Set

When we bought the easel, we had no idea how much Eva would use it. But then again, it really should have been obvious; kids can’t resist colouring on paper. The easel is always there, ready and waiting. And the twig crayons are both cool and easy for little fingers to grab and create their masterpieces.

9. Mudpuppy Wooden Magnetic Letters

Eva’s new favourite song is the ABCs. Eva had Johnny sing it three times in a row. So we pulled out these letters, which I was really holding back for when Eva was a little older. Eva loves them. Now, maybe it was coincidence, or maybe it is because we always spell her name for her in the steam in the shower. but Eva found the E, V and A and took them down off the fridge to examine them more closely. I reckon she’s a genius. 

10. Eric Carle Animal Flash Cards

These flashcards, like his Very Hungry Caterpillar book, are beautiful. Some of the animal choices are a bit odd —what in the world is a Quetzal?— but they’re great practice for animal names, letters, and for Johnny and I to practice all of various animal calls.

I’d love to know, what are some of your favourite “educational” toys? 

Learning at Home {Vol.2}

After writing my previous post about learning at home, I’ve been meaning to follow up with a post about some specific activities that I’ve been doing with Eva over the past month.

Many of these activities have been inspired by the Montessori method of learning. And although, I believe in many of the principles, I also don’t believe in following their pedagogy blindly or completely. However, one of the element of Montessori that I particularly agree with is the concept of “sensitive periods”.

It is believed that children go through stages of intellectual interest and curiosity in which they become intrigued with particular elements of their environment. And it is at these stages that given the right resources, exposer and stimulation, children are able to learn almost unknowingly. For example at the moment Eva is particularly intrigued with language, small objects (developing fine motor skills) and senses (sensory refinement).

1. Practical Life

  • Care of the Environment (Gardening & Watering)

More and more we have noticed that Eva enjoys imitating us and “helping” in household activities such as sweeping or putting way dishes (i.e. reorganising the cupboards). With that in mind I came up with the idea of Eva having her own little herb garden to “look after” and water each day. She definitely understands and responds to the routine of filling up her pink watering can and then gleefully watering the plants and of course the deck. 

Resources: Pot, Potty mix, herb seedlings, watering can

  • Control of Movement (Sorting Colours) 

Using a divided serving tray she is able to sort and match colours. Eva adores these glittered pom-poms I bought from the craft section in Target and will actively seek them out from the cupboard.

Resources: Coloured glitter pom-poms, divided serving tray.

  • Control of Movement (Sorting Colours) 

Another variation of this activity is to use flashcards and individual tupperware containers. I try not to introduce too many colours at the one time, otherwise Eva becomes overwhelmed and isn’t able to concentrate.

Resources: Mr Printable’s Colour Flashcards, three or four matching coloured felt pom-poms, storage/tupperware containers. 

2. Language

  • Introducing Letter Recognition (Painting)

Over the past couple of weeks I have begun introducing the alphabet to Eva one letter at a time. Inspired by Totally Tots’ Crafty ABCs, we have started a scrap book filled with clipart images and Kidz Club Flash Cards to match each letter of the alphabet. At the moment we are up to the letter D and I have to say that I’m surprised at how well Eva has responded. 

At first I wasn’t sure whether or not she would be able to grasp the concept, but already she can recognise “A”, “B”, “C” and most of the vocabulary associated. She will also (unprompted) look through her scrap book and will point out the various letters and images.

  • Matching (Reading with Props)

I’ve already written many times about Eva’s love for books and thus it was only a natural progression to start introducing props. Sometimes we use the props while reading through the book, but often we lay them out of the coffee table and Eva will excitedly reveal the animals from underneath the covers as I recite the story.

Resources: Kidz Club “Dear Zoo” Story PropsDear Zoo

  • Matching (Object to Picture)

Eva has always been intrigued by flashcards and books with real life images such as First 100 WordsMy Big Animal Book and My First Touch and Feel Picture Cards. And as much as I think these books are less than ascetically pleasing, Eva loves them. 

For this activity I used pictures of various fruit and vegetables for Eva to match with the real foods. The first time I did this activity it didn’t last long before Eva became distracted by the banana and began to eat it!

Resources: Mr Printable’s Fruit and Vegetables Vocabulary Flashcards, various fruits and vegetables to match the picture cards.

  • Matching (Picture to Picture)

Another matching activity; however, this is more like a puzzle in which Eva matches the correct animals together. At the moment she is particularly fascinated by animals and will excitedly match the picture cards and imitate the noises and actions she knows.

    Resources: Picture Matching Word Cards: AnimalsThere are also a number of other free printable cards created by Canon — Picture Matching Word Cards: Vegetables and FruitsSilhouette Cards: Vegetables and Fruits.

    3. Art & Sensory 

    • Painting

    Eva is now at the age that, with a watchful eye, I can let her paint freely. Even though we have an easel, I don’t trust Eva not to roam through the house, paintbrush in hand! Thus for this age group I would recommend using a high chair. 

    Resources: Finger paint, Ikea Mala drawing paper, Ikea Mala paint storage, foam paint brushes, two separate tubs of water, an old towel and face washer, Newspaper.

    • Introducing Colour Recognition using Various Sensory Objects  

    This activity is just as much about sorting and matching the coloured objects as it is about exploring the various textures. 

      Resources: Tray, various coloured toys (I used Fisher-Price stacking rings, KID O nesting cups, coloured balloons filled with various textures (rice, cous cous, pasta), plastic Easter eggs, Wonderworld Rainbow Sound Blocks, Under the Nile stuffed Fruit and Veggies, coloured pegs/clothes pins)

      5. Maths

      • Introducing number recognition (Sorting and Counting Material)

      At this age Eva’s ability to concentrate is limited to the numbers 1-4. Using small felt pom-poms she is able to match each number with a “token”. 

        Resources:Mr Printable’s Ladybug Number Flashcards, felt pom poms, a storage container.

        I do want to note that some of these activities Eva finds more engaging than others. I actively try to encourage her to complete each tasks and thus most of the activities are only meant to last a couple of minutes and if Eva is interested we will do it again. I never push Eva or “drill” her. The purpose of me creating these resources and introducing these activities is to simply provide her with the opportunities to learn. 

        * Please excuse the quality of some of these pictures as they were mostly taken inside at different times of the day and not in the best lighting conditions.

        Learning at Home

        Now that Eva is getting older, we have become increasingly aware of these giant developmental leaps she has had and continues to have. We are often blown away with her ability to understand and follow instructions and her ever growing “passive” vocabulary. Eva has definitely turned into a little sponge — absorbing everything around her. 

        Both Johnny and I work in the field of education — Johnny at a university and myself at a high school (although a friend and co-worker of mine recently said I wasn’t allowed to call myself a high school teacher since the last time I stepped foot in a classroom was April 30, 2010!) —, so it’s not surprising that we recognise the importance of early childhood education.

        I don’t believe in “drilling” or creating structured lessons at this age, but rather providing Eva with the right tools, resources and opportunities to develop and learn. 

        With that, I thought I would share a few of the things we have been up to over the past week:

        1. Flashcards

        I remember once coming across a blogger who had commented that they equated flashcards to “snake oil”.  However, I would completely disagree with this. For Eva, she seems to thrive and will often seek out sets of flashcards for Johnny or me to show her. Eva’s “passive” vocabulary has grown and she is able to recognise and point out over 80 various nouns and verbs. I attribute this mainly to the use of flashcards, alphabet placemats and of course, reading books.

        I don’t believe that every child will respond to flashcards in the same way that Eva has, some require a more tactile and sensory method of learning.

        I recently printed of a bunch of free flashcards (alphabet, shapes, colours, animals, numbers, fruits and vegetables, nature vocabulary) from Mr Printables. I printed them on heavy stock card, cut to size and laminated them, which has meant they are easy to clean and aren’t easily bent. Some of the vocabulary is still too abstract for Eva to grasp, but she is able to recognise most of the animals, nature and many of the images of food. 

        2. Books

        Read. Read. Read.

        Much like Eva’s wardrobe, she has an ever growing collection of books. Thankfully Eva loves to read and will often sit and “read” to herself or will wander over to us with a book in her hand, ready to sit in our lap and have a story read to her.

        I rotate the book collection in Eva’s teepee weekly and try to provide books of the same theme. For example last week, we focused on farm animals. Many of the books were from Eva’s own collection and we also picked up a number of books from the public library during our visit. 

        3. Colouring

        Similar to flashcards, colouring pictures creates opportunities to talk about the images and practise fine motor skills. Just in a few short weeks I’ve noticed Eva’s colouring skills have improved dramatically. For example, she will now attempt to colour single objects rather than the entire page.

        I love the DwellStudio: Color and Count Placemats. The pictures are simple with images on each side, provide a simple question and because they are also made to be placemats, they are not easily ripped or crumpled by rowdy toddlers. I also love the free colouring sheets provided by Made by Joel. The images are simple, modern and child-like. 

        4. “Helping”

        Like many kids at this age, Eva loves helping around the house — sweeping, pulling the laundry out of the washing machine, watering the garden and “cooking”.

        I’ve longed for the day when Eva can help in the kitchen — just look at our matching Anthropologie aprons! However, I’m not ready for her to sit on the counter or up on a step stool, so being such an active little girl, “cooking” on our coffee table seemed to work perfectly.

        I pre-chopped the vegetables and had Eva taste and “decorate” the pizza base. Eva loved helping and did it with such concentration. Although, at first I had to keep reminding her that once she placed the vegetables on the pizza base, she had to leave them there! 

        I want to make it clear that Eva is not engaged in active learning activities in every moment of the day. I do let her watch television, some days more than what I would like, but I believe so long as she is provided with quality and frequent learning opportunities, a bit of TV isn’t going to hurt her! 

        p.s Thanks for voting

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